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Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Fewer women make it to ranks of CLAT toppers

Only 45.4% of national law school aspirants taking the Common Law Admission Test in 2015 were women

Statistics collated from the official Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) results of 37,358 candidates— which were released on Friday—show that only 45.4% of national law school aspirants taking CLAT in 2015 were women.

That’s nearly two percentage points lower than the national gender ratio, but even that figure looks positively healthy when compared with how many women law students are from states that have the most skewed gender ratios in India.

From Haryana, the state that has India’s most lopsided sex ratio of 44%, only 37% of CLAT aspirants were women. Rajasthan and Bihar fare almost as badly—just under 40% of national law school applicants from the two states were women, compared to local gender averages of around 46%.

Uttar Pradesh also slips in at just below average at 42%.

However, on the bright side, a larger number of states are sending a greater proportion of women to law school than their gender ratios would suggest.

In Kerala, where the gender ratio at 54.2% is sterling by any measure, nearly 56% of CLAT aspirants were women.

Downstream imbalance

Although there are nearly as many women as men sitting for CLAT these days, women did not perform as well in the test as men, according to the numbers.

On average, female candidates only make up 37% of the top 500 CLAT rankers this year, which is 8 percentage points less than their representation in CLAT would suggest.

The question of why this is the case is not easy to pin down.

Shamnad Basheer, a former law professor and founder of Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access, a non-governmental organization, said research done by them in 2011 and 2013 showed that at the top five national law schools, the male-to-female gender ratios were pretty much 50:50, or even slightly more women than men.

In the 2014 CLAT allotment list of test-takers to colleges, 46% of the top 500 ranks were achieved by women, according to an analysis by Legally India, with similar top 500 ratios in 2013, 2012 and 2010.

It is unclear why this year’s CLAT, at 37% women in the top 500, has such a skewed balance, and this bears further investigation, said Basheer.

CLAT aspirants tend to come from similar, middle- to upper-middle class socio-economic backgrounds, overwhelmingly from urban environments, so it would be unlikely that sons and daughters would receive different levels of education at a pre-college level, Basheer said.

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